116 Civil Rights Movement Essay Topics & Examples

Trying to write a successful civil rights movement essay? Questions about the subject may flood your brain, but we can help!

📃 8 Tips for Writing a Civil Rights Movement Essay

🏆 best civil rights movement topic ideas & essay examples, 🎓 most interesting civil rights movement topics to write about, 📌 good civil rights research topics, 👍 interesting civil rights essay topics, ❓ civil rights movement essay questions.

As a student, you can explore anything from civil disobedience to the work of Martin Luther King Jr in your paper. And we are here to help! Our experts have gathered civil rights movement essay topics for different assignments. In the article below, see research and paper ideas along with tips on writing. Besides, check civil rights essay examples via the links.

A civil rights movement essay is an essential assignment because it helps students to reflect on historical events that molded the contemporary American society. Read this post to find some useful tips that will help you score an A on your paper on the civil rights movement.

Tip 1: Read the instructions carefully. Check all of the documents provided by your tutor, including the grading rubric, example papers, and civil rights movement essay questions. When you know what is expected of you, it will be much easier to proceed with the assignment and achieve a high mark on it.

Tip 2: Browse sample papers on the topic. If you are not sure of what to write about in particular, you can see what other students included in their essays. While reading civil rights movement essay examples, take notes about the content, sources used, and other relevant points. This might give you some ideas on what to include in your paper and how to enhance it to meet the requirements.

Tip 3: Collect high-quality material to support your essay. The best sources are scholarly articles and books. However, there are also some credible websites and news articles that offer unbiased information on the civil rights movements. If the instructions don’t prevent you from using these, you could include a wide array of resources, thus making your essay more detailed.

Tip 4: Offer some context on the civil rights movement. The 20th century was instrumental to the history of America because there were many political and social events, including World War II and the subsequent Cold War. While some events may not relate to the history of the civil rights movement, they are important for the readers to understand the context in which the movement took place.

Tip 5: Consider the broader history of discrimination in the American society. Discrimination is the key focus of most civil rights movement essay topics. For the black population, the movement was instrumental in reducing prejudice and improving social position. However, there were many other populations that faced discrimination throughout the American history, such as women, Native Americans, and people from the LGBT community. Can you see any similarities in how these groups fought for equal rights?

Tip 6: Reflect on the sources of the civil rights movement. The story of racial discrimination and oppression in America spanned for over 400 years, so there is a lot of history behind the civil rights movement. Here, you could talk about slavery and segregation policies, as well as how the black communities responded to the struggle. For instance, you could consider the Harlem Renaissance and its influence on the Black identity or about other examples or cultural movements that originated in the black community.

Tip 7: If relevant, include a personal reflection. You can write about what the civil rights movement means for you and how it impacted the life of your family. You can also explore racial discrimination in contemporary society to show that some issues still remain unsolved.

Tip 8: Maintain a good essay structure. Ensure that every paragraph serves its purpose. A civil rights movement essay introduction should define the movement and state your main argument clearly. Follow it with several main body paragraphs, each one exploring a certain idea that relates to the key argument. In conclusion, address all the points you’ve made and demonstrate how they relate to your thesis.

With these few tips, you will be able to write an excellent paper on the civil rights movement. Check the rest of our website for essay titles, topics, and more writing advice!

  • Impact of Civil Rights Movement The freedom to vote for all Americans became central in the civil rights movements, and one of its successes was the legislation that culminated in the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
  • Civil Rights-Black Power Movement Barack Obama was aware of the violence and oppression of black people in the United States. It shows self determination of the black people in struggles for civil rights- black power.
  • Ida B. Wells-Barnett: Leader of the Civil Rights Movement The psychology of a leader is the psychology of a winner. One such example is one of the early leaders of the civil rights movement, American investigative journalist Ida Bell Wells-Barnett, who, thanks to her […]
  • Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War The Vietnam War caused unintended consequences for the civil rights movements of the 1960s as it awakened the African-Americans’ consciousness on the racism and despotism that they experienced in the United States.
  • The Civil Rights Movement in the United States In the United States, the 1960s was characterized by the rise of Civil Rights Movements, the aim of which was to suppress and end discrimination and racial segregation against African Americans.
  • Invisible Southern Black Women Leaders in the Civil Rights Movement Based on 36 personal interviews and multiple published and archived sources, the author demonstrates that black women in the South have played a prominent role in the struggle for their rights.
  • African-American Women and the Civil Rights Movement The key factors that left the Black women unrecognized or led to recognition of just a few of them as leaders are class, race and gender biases.
  • The Contributions of Richard Wright and Gwendolyn Brooks to the Civil Rights Movement Among these were Richard Wright and Gwendolyn Brooks who used literary works to voice out their displeasure on the discrimination against blacks as well as portray a humanitarian point of view on the plight of […]
  • Plan: Civil Rights Movement in United States The following assessment plan has details on the objectives of the assessment plan, the types of assessment plans, and the adaptation of the lesson plan to fit special groups of students.
  • The Civil Rights Movement: Historical Interpretation Rosa Parks was one of the pivotal figures in the Montgomery Bus Boycott and a critical event in the Civil Rights Movement.
  • The Civil Rights Movement’s Goals and Achievements Despite the considerable oppression of non-white groups of the population and the fear accompanying it, the Movement continued to fight and achieved success in its goals, affecting the country even in the modern period.
  • The Civil Rights Movement: I Have a Dream The civil rights movement has changed many aspects of the nation, such as housing, the economy, and jobs. The movement changed the outlook, the power structure, and the very core of the nation.
  • Music and the Civil Rights Movement It was famous in the 1960s and 1970s and continues to live now.”We Shall Overcome”, like many other freedom songs, reflects the goals and methods of the early protestors.
  • “The Souls of Black Folk” and the Civil Rights Movement At the beginning of the 20th century, multiple decades had passed since the end of the Civil War and the abolition of slavery.
  • Law History From Jim Crow to Civil Rights Movement It was not until the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.that the problems of law enforcement in the South was truly recognized and reforms started designed to reduce the influence of political agendas on the […]
  • Civil Rights Movement: Fights for Freedom The Civil Rights Movement introduced the concept of black and white unification in the face of inequality. Music-related to justice and equality became the soundtrack of the social and cultural revolution taking place during the […]
  • Civil Rights Movement and Political Parties One of the examples of the effects of social unrest on political institutions in American history is the Civil Rights Movement, and it defined the general courses of the main parties as well as the […]
  • Civil Rights Movement Distorted Image The study of the role and image of historical characters in CRM is incorrect and distorted. Rosa Parks is considered the person who informally initiated the movement due to the refusal to give up a […]
  • Protest Music and the US Anti-Lynching and Civil Rights Movement In the 1950s and 1960s, the civil rights movement continually challenged the government to fulfill the promise of equality and justice.
  • Civil Rights Movement in the USA Brief History From the Time Before the Civil War This was part of a planned act of civil disobedience in which Plessy was to be arrested, charged and tried, and the court case would then be used to challenge the law.
  • Newspaper Coverage of Japan-America Internment in WW2 and the Civil Rights Movement The media covered this because this movement persuaded whites to join them in their mass protests and they were killed in the event.
  • “Black Power” in the Civil Rights Movement They wanted to reform the system to ensure a more democratic and actively participating society in the decision-making process of governance for the country.
  • Civil Rights Movement in “Freedom Riders” Documentary As a commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of freedom movements, Nelson’s movie is a story of segregation and racism, abhorrence, courage, and the general brutality of the depicted events.
  • The Civil Rights Movement: Martin King and Malcolm X’s Views King also stressed that the major concepts he adopted were taken from the “Sermon on the Mount and the Gandhian method of nonviolent resistance”.
  • President Johnson in the Civil Rights Movement The problem of gay and lesbian rights appeared to be rather challenging and disruptive to the society. They include hippies and other social layers that were not eager to change things while others were trying […]
  • Medgar Wiley Evers in the Civil Rights Movement Following the rejection of his application to study at the University of Mississippi, NAACP hired him as a field secretary to Jackson that was to the Deep South in recognition of his effort and contribution […]
  • Civil Rights Movement by E. Durkheim and K. Marx The theories will also be used to predict the future of racism in the United States. The level of segregation experienced in the country led to new interferences and constraints.
  • Civil Rights Movement: Purposes and Effects The civil rights movement was a popular lobby group created to advocate for equality in the United States for both blacks and whites. To a large extent, the civil rights movement completely transformed the lives […]
  • Coalition Politics After the Civil Rights Movement Such coalitions also forced the American government to address the challenges affecting different cities. New policies and laws emerged in order to promote the rights of many American citizens.
  • Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance in the Civil Rights Movement by Lance Hill The book describes the tension and struggles that existed between the African Americans and the members of the white citizens’ council, Ku Klux Klan.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Civil Rights Movement Martin Luther King noticed the negative trend and he took his stand to make people see the devastating effects of the war.
  • Presidents Eisenhower and Johnson: the Civil Rights Movement The social historians have managed to cogently present the politics that surrounded the civil rights movement. The movement also managed to gain the support of the aims of government, the executive, legislature, and even the […]
  • The Civil Rights Movement in the USA The movement’s main aim was to end the racial segregation and fight for the voting power of the black people in America.
  • The Civil Rights Movement Although the positive role of the Civil Rights Movement for changing the role of the African Americans in the American society is visible, this topic is also essential to be discussed because the movement for […]
  • The Civil Rights Movement: Oppressing the Black Population In response, the black citizen resorted to fighting for his rights; thus, the rise of the civil rights movement. In conclusion, these key events helped to reinforce the African American struggle for equal right rights, […]
  • Music of the Civil Wars, Civil Rights & Freedom Movements of Europe, Africa, North & South America During the 20th Century The aim of Giovinezza was to reinforce the position of Mussolini as the leader of the Fascist Movement and of Italy.
  • Silent Voices of the Modern Civil Rights Movement This is the why she gets my nomination for recognition in the “Museum of Silent Voices of the Modern Civil Rights Movement”.
  • Dr. King’s Role in United States Civil Rights Movement His popularity started after he led other activists in boycotting the services of the Montgomery Bus Service in the year 1955 after an incident of open discrimination of a black woman in the bus. Martin […]
  • The Civil Rights Act as a Milestone Element of American Legislation Although the Civil Rights Act has undergone several amendments, the Civil Right Act amendment of 1964 was the main amendment that addressed the above types of discrimination.
  • Harold Washington With Civil Rights Movement Hence, this study examines the main achievements of Harold Washington in the fields of employment, racism, equality in provision of social amenities, gender equality, freedom of expression, and the creation of the ethics commission in […]
  • American Africans Action in the Struggle for Equality Community leaders in various segmentations of the society had showed resistance to the white supremacy and domination against the African Americans which had been abounded in some states.’Everyday’s Use’ written at the peak of the […]
  • The Civil Rights Movement: Ending Racial Discrimination and Segregation in America Finally, the paper will look at both the positive and negative achievements of the civil rights movements including an assessment of how the rights movement continues to influence the socio-economic and political aspects of the […]
  • Civil Rights Movement Major Events in 1954-1968 This research paper seeks to highlight the historical events that took place in 1954-1968 in the United States which were instigated by the Civil Rights Movement in the hope of securing the civil and basic […]
  • The African American Civil Rights Movement During the 1960s notable achievements were made including the passage of a Civil rights Act in 1964 that outlawed any form of discrimination towards people of a different “race, color or national origin in employment […]
  • Civil Rights Movement The Civil Rights Movement is an era that was dedicated for equal treatments and rights to the activism of the African American in the US.
  • Theatre in the Era of the Civil Rights Movement
  • To What Extent Can the 1950’s Be Viewed as a Great Success for the Civil Rights Movement
  • The Stages of the Progressive Reform in the Civil Rights Movement
  • The Contradicting Outcome of the Civil Rights Movement in America
  • The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Civil Rights Movement
  • The Fight for Aid from the Civil Rights Movement
  • The Long Term Effects of the Civil Rights Movement
  • Violent and Non-violent Methods of Protests Embraced by African American in the Civil Rights Movement
  • The Role of The Supreme Court in the Civil Rights Movement
  • The Success of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950’s
  • Women in the Civil Rights Movement
  • U.S. Democracy and the Civil Rights Movement
  • The History of the Civil Rights Movement in the United Stats and Its Impact on African Americans
  • The Relationship of Southern Jews to Blacks and the Civil Rights Movement
  • The Importance of Students During the Civil Rights Movement
  • A Look at Civil Rights Movement in the United States and the Role of Martin Luther
  • White Resistance to the Civil Rights Movement
  • The Impact of Rock ‘n’ Roll on the Civil Rights Movement
  • African Americans and Religion During the Civil Rights Movement
  • The Historical Accuracy of the Portrayal of the Civil Rights Movement in Selma, a Drama Film by Ava DuVernay
  • The War on Drugs and the Civil Rights Movement
  • The Civil Rights Movement and the Black Middle Class
  • The Role of Police During the Civil Rights Movement
  • The Achievements of Peaceful Protest During the Civil Rights Movement
  • Analyzing the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War
  • The True Face of The Civil Rights Movement
  • The History of the Civil Rights Movement, National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
  • Successes and Failures of Civil Rights Movement
  • The Historiography of Womens Role and Visibility in The Civil Rights Movement
  • The Relationship Between Activism and Federal Government During the Civil Rights Movement
  • To What Extent Was Grass Roots Activism a Significant Reason to Why the Civil Rights Movement Grew in the 1950s and 1960s
  • The Value of Studying the Civil Rights Movement
  • A History of the Civil Rights Movement and Feminist Movement in the United States
  • The Foundation of the Niagara Movement and Its Influence on the Civil Rights Movement in America
  • The Role of Black Women in the Civil Rights Movement
  • The Role and Importance of the Grassroot Organizers on the Civil Rights Movement
  • The Effect of Society on the World of Doubt and the Effects of the Civil Rights Movement
  • The Importance and Impact of the Civil Rights Movement to the Public Policy
  • The New York Times and The Civil Rights Movement
  • Understanding the Civil Rights Movement: America Vs. Australia
  • The Laws in the Reconstruction Era and the Civil Rights Movement
  • How Effective Was the Early Civil Rights Movement in Advancing Black Civil Rights in 1880-1990?
  • What Role Did Jews Play in the American Civil Rights Movement?
  • How Did the African American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s?
  • Did Minority Rights Campaigners Copy the Tactics of the Black American Civil Rights Movement?
  • What is the NAACP’s Impact on the Civil Rights Movement in the US?
  • How Did Gandhi Influence the Civil Rights Movement?
  • To What Extent Can the 1950’s Be Viewed as a Great Success for the Civil Rights Movement?
  • How Far Was the Effectiveness of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s Limited by Internal Divisions?
  • How the Cold War Promoted the Civil Rights Movement in America, and How It Promoted Change?
  • How Far Was Martin Luther King Responsible for the Civil Rights Movement?
  • How Was Civil Disobedience Used in the Civil Rights Movement?
  • How Did the Civil Rights Movement Change America?
  • How Successful Had the Civil Rights Movement Been by the Late 1960s?
  • Did Black Power Groups Cause Harm to the Civil Rights Movement in America?
  • To What Extent Was Grass Roots Activism a Significant Reason to Why the Civil Rights Movement Grew in the 1950s and 1960s?
  • How Did Kennedy and His Administration Effect the Civil Rights Movement?
  • Did the Black Power Movement Help or Hinder the Civil Rights Movement?
  • How the Civil Rights Movement Influenced the Women?
  • What Are the Results of the Effort of the Civil Rights Movement?
  • How Did Martin Luther King Affect the Civil Rights Movement?
  • Are the Problems Faced by the Feminist and Sexual Emancipation Movements Similar to Those Faced by Civil Rights Movement, or Are There Major Differences?
  • Was the Civil Rights Movement Successful?
  • Has America Really Changed Since the Civil Rights Movement?
  • Why Was the Civil Rights Movement Successful by 1965?
  • How Did Religion Influence Martin Luther King, Jr as He Led the Civil Rights Movement?
  • How Significant Was Martin Luther King Jr. to the Black Civil Rights Movement?
  • How Did Martin Luther Kings Jr Death Affect the Civil Rights Movement?
  • How Important Was Martin Luther King to the Civil Rights Movement?
  • Does the Civil Rights Movement Have an Effect on the Way Minorities Are Treated by Authorities?
  • Was the Civil Rights Movement a Success or Failure?
  • Chicago (A-D)
  • Chicago (N-B)

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  • Civil Liberties Essays

Civil Liberties Essays (Examples)

1000+ documents containing “civil liberties” .

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I\'m looking for a unique and fresh essay topic on japanese internment. any ideas that stand out.

Certainly! Here are a few unique and fresh essay topics on Japanese internment: 1. Exploring the Role of Japanese American Women during Internment: Discuss the experiences, contributions, and resilience of Japanese American women during the internment period, highlighting their role in preserving their communities and influencing social change. 2. The Psychological Impact of Internment on Japanese American Children: Analyze the long-term psychological effects that internment had on Japanese American children and how their experiences shaped their identity, relationships, and future aspirations. 3. Artistic Expression and Resistance in Internment Camps: Examine how interned Japanese Americans utilized various art forms, such as poetry, drawing, and....

Can you offer assistance in devising suitable titles for my essay about Domestic surveillance

1. The Ethical Implications of Domestic Surveillance 2. The Impact of Domestic Surveillance on Civil Liberties 3. Balancing Security and Privacy in Domestic Surveillance 4. The Effectiveness of Domestic Surveillance in Preventing Crime 5. The Role of Technology in Enhancing Domestic Surveillance 6. The Psychological Impact of Living under Constant Surveillance 7. Government Accountability in Domestic Surveillance Programs 8. The Legal Framework Surrounding Domestic Surveillance 9. Public Perception of Domestic Surveillance 10. The Future of Domestic Surveillance in a Digital Age 11. The Controversy Surrounding Domestic Surveillance Practices 12. The Balance Between Security and Personal Freedoms in Domestic Surveillance 13. The Evolution....

Title 1: Domestic Surveillance: Delving into the Complexities of State Surveillance of Citizens This title offers a comprehensive overview of the essay's focus on domestic surveillance, highlighting the multifaceted nature of the topic and the intricate relationship between state surveillance and citizens' rights. Title 2: Unraveling the Architecture of Domestic Surveillance: A Critical Examination of Government Monitoring Practices This title emphasizes the underlying structure and mechanisms of domestic surveillance, suggesting a deep exploration of how governments implement and execute surveillance programs. Title 3: Domestic Surveillance: Navigating the Fine Line between Security and Privacy in the Digital Age This title captures the delicate balance between the....

Need help shaping my Examining the Israeli-palestine Conflict:the oppressed become the oppressor thesis statement into a clear argument. Any suggestions?

Thesis Statement: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict exemplifies the dynamic of "the oppressed become the oppressor," where the once-oppressed Israelis, after gaining statehood, have now become the oppressors of the Palestinians. Argument Outline: Introduction: Begin with a brief historical overview of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the establishment of Israel in 1948. Highlight the initial displacement and oppression of Palestinians by the Israeli state. Historical Oppression of Palestinians: Describe the systematic discrimination and marginalization of Palestinians under Israeli occupation, including land confiscation, restrictions on movement, and economic deprivation. Discuss the human rights violations committed by the Israeli military and security forces. Provide evidence from historical documents and....

Civil Liberties

Civil Liberties: Jones case is one of the major recent cases regarding civil liberties that basically examined whether the government requires a search warrant before placing a GPS device on a vehicle and tracking the movements of that vehicle. The ruling by the Supreme Court in this case upholds the extensive right for citizens to be free from unreasonable searches. However, the ruling on the case also demonstrated the struggle within the Supreme Court to balance the objectives of law enforcement with privacy concerns. Generally, the Supreme Court has continued to explore the limits of civil liberties, especially in light of the liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. This case can be traced back to when Antoine Jones was arrested on October 24, 2005, in possession of drugs. The law enforcement officers had attached a tracker to his Jeep albeit without judicial approval and followed Jones for a month ("United States….

Works Cited:

"Online Law Library - Case Summary." Applied Discovery. Applied Discovery, Inc., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2012. .

"UNITED STATES v. JONES." U.S. Supreme Court Media. Oyez, Inc., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2012. .

Civil Liberties and Terrorism 9-11

Civil Liberties, a Price to Pay for Safety? Terrorism is something that a country or a nation has to deal with at some time or another. The United States experienced a terrible tragedy on September 11th 2001 when the twin towers in manhattan collapsed due to hijacked airplanes. Ever since then, America has been on high alert in order to avoid another catastrophe. Some of the measures taken such as the passing of the Patriot Act to ensure such an event will not happen again restrict what can be carried on airplanes, such as smaller carry ons, smaller amount of liquids, etc. American citizens have had issues with these "intrusions." Some have complained about the long wait times at airport check ins or the monitoring of possible "terrorist activity." However, in order for the United States to be a safer country, certain precautions must be met. American citizens should be willing to….

Works Cited

Abdolian, Lisa F., and Harold Takooshian. "The U.S.A. Patriot Act: Civil Liberties, the Media, and Public Opinion." Fordham Urban Law Journal 30.4 (2003): 1429-1440. Print.

Davis, Darren W., and Brian D. Silver. "Civil Liberties vs. Security: Public Opinion in the Context of the Terrorist Attacks on America." American Journal of Political Science.48.1 (2004): 28-46. Print.

Domke, David, Erica Graham, Kevin Coe, Sue L. John, and Ted Coopman. "Going Public as Political Strategy: The Bush Administration, an Echoing Press, and Passage of the Patriot Act." Political Communication 23.3 (2006): 291-312. Print.

Leone, Richard C, and Greg Anrig. The War on Our Freedoms: Civil Liberties in an Age of Terrorism. New York: BBS PublicAffairs, 2003. Print.

Civil Liberties Habeas Corpus War Terror Subtopics

Civil Liberties, Habeas Corpus, ar Terror subtopics: Explain historical evolution habeas corpus, including English American traditions. The explanation evolution American tradition include general meaning habeas corpus U. Habeas Corpus The principle of habeas corpus promotes the idea that a person needs to be brought before a court in order for him or her to be judged before he or she is provided with a sentence. Habeas corpus is Latin for "that you have the body" and the former written order it is used to bring a prisoner or other detainee in the presence of the court so as for the respective individual to benefit from a fair trial. hen taking into account the U.S., federal courts are in charge of using the habeas corpus writ with the purpose of determining whether or not a detainee is being incarcerated as a result of having actually committed the crime that he or she is….

Works cited:

Dueholm, J.A. "Lincoln's Suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus: An Historical and Constitutional Analysis," Retrieved September 17, 2013, from  http://quod.lib.umich.edu/j/jala/2629860.0029.205?rgn=main;view=fulltext 

Garcia, M.J. "Boumediene v. Bush: Guantanamo Detainees' Right to Habeas Corpus," Retrieved September 17, 2013, from  http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL34536.pdf 

Schultz, D.A. (2009). Encyclopedia of the United States Constitution. Infobase Publishing.

Vile, J.R. (2010). A Companion to the United States Constitution and Its Amendments. ABC-CLIO.

Civil Liberties During War Losses

However, during war it becomes all too easy to look for convenient ways to disregard even the most important laws. The first, and most dramatic, effect of war is to increase the general fearfulness of a population. Fear and anxiety rocket way up during wartime, and are fueled by all the myriad effects of such conflicts. But another, less-well-understood reaction to war on the part of a both the individual and the nation (and, again, this is not a phenomenon that is in any way unique to the United States) is a marked increase in binary thinking. Humans are programmed to think in oppositionally defined, polar pairs and this is something that we do all the time. But during fear-producing times, this tendency is greatly exacerbated. In peacetime, people are likely to find it easier to consider nuances and shades of meaning, but during armed conflict, no such nuance can be….

Alien and Sedition Acts,  http://www.ushistory.org/us/19e.asp . Accessed 3 December 2009.

James Bovard, 2003, October. Wilson's Crusade and Bush's Crusade.  http://www.fff.org/freedom/fd0310c.asp . Accessed 3 December 2009.

Steve Connor. Racism and xenophobia linked to biological fear of outsiders in Stone Age.  http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/racism-and-xenophobia-linked-to-biological-fear-of-outsiders-in-stone-age-566708.html . Accessed 2009 28 November.

Dean Dooley, n.d. Does the war on terror threaten civil liberties in the U.S.  http://www.helium.com/items/501123-does-the-war-on-terror-threaten-civil-liberties-in-the-us . Accessed 2009 4 December.

Civil Liberties Post-September 11th September

T) he FBI can now act like a domestic CIA when seeking a criminal conviction. It can obtain a secret warrant from a secret court to gather evidence of crime without ever having to present to the court evidence that the person upon whom it wishes to spy is involved in crime. Moreover, evidence gathered in criminal case can now be more easily shared - without a court order - for "intelligence" purposes with intelligence agencies such as the CIA even if the information is about an American citizen ("Threats to Civil Liberties"). The exercise of rights generates costs, and it is these costs that are often in conflict. Davis and Silver agree that a proper balance must be found between freedom and control and that civil liberties cannot simply be trodden upon. Lewis cites research documenting that the general public's fears had diminished within a month's time, to the point where….

Davis, D. & Sliver, B. "Civil Liberties vs. Security: Public Opinion in the Context of the Terrorist Attacks on America." American Journal of Political Science 48(1) Jan 2005: 28-46. JSTOR. JSTOR. University of Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ. November 29, 2006  http://www.jstor.org .

Lewis, C. "The Clash Between Security and Liberty in the U.S. Response to Terror." Public Administration Review. Jan/Feb 2005: 18-30. ProQuest database. ProQuest. University of Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ. November 29, 2006  http://proquest.umi.com .

Stephens, T. "Civil Liberties after September 11: Background of a Crisis." Guild Practitioner 61(1) Winter 2004: 4. ProQuest database. ProQuest. University of Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ. November 29, 2006

Civil Liberties the United States Is a

Civil Liberties The United States is a country founded on the notion of protected civil liberties. After all, the pioneers who came to the country in the 18th century were themselves fleeing from persecution and seeking the freedom to practice their religious beliefs and the right to discuss their diverging views in public. Today, these freedoms are protected by law under the Bill of Rights. They serve to protect individual freedoms from encroachment by the government. It is largely through the Bill of Rights that the Constitution limits the government's powers over the rights of individuals (Levy 8). This paper examines the dual role the government takes in approaching such freedoms. First is the passive role, where the law prescribes that the government limit its role in matters of individual civil liberties. This includes the hands-off policy the government is supposed to take in matters such as freedom of the press and privacy….

Getz, Arlene. "Big Brother Goes to Washington." Newsweek. November 15, 2002. Available from LEXIS/NEXIS Academic Universe.

Guernsey, JoAnn Bren. Abortion: Understanding the Controversy. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Company, 1993.

Johnson, Lyndon B. "To Fulfill these Rights." Speech reprinted in The Affirmative Action Debate. George E. Curry (ed). Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley Publishing, 1965.

Kimball, Roger. "The Case for Censorship." Censorship: Opposing Viewpoints. Tamara L. Roleff, ed. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, Inc., 2002.

Civil Liberties Where These Three

Other than that, many dress codes cause too much restriction of freedoms and are more trouble than they are actually worth. There is no reason that a student can't wear a particular color, just because a gang somewhere across the country wears that color. At that rate, no one would be able to wear any color because of various (often mistaken) connotations, which is just silly. When it comes to the court case regarding the woman who wrote about molestation, torture, and murder of children on the Internet, this should certainly be allowed. There were no pictures, and if a person wrote something like this in a book, he or she wouldn't be prosecuted. That's why it's called fiction...and people should be allowed to express themselves through their writing. She didn't force anyone to read it, and if they didn't like it, they could certainly stop reading. What luxurious lives….

Civil Liberties Are Protections From

The main advantage of the convention is that they provide an opportunity for candidates to define themselves in a positive way and for the party to heal itself after a decisive nomination battle. 2. The electoral college is the means by which presidents are actually elected. To win a state's electoral votes, a candidate must have a plurality of votes in that state. Except in two states, the winner takes all. 3. In all but two states, if a candidate has a plurality of votes in a state the winner gets all of that state's electoral votes. 4. Soft money is money used to advance a particular political campaign in such a manner as to skirt the legal limits, such as advertising that does not name a candidate or party, but focuses on a particular issue tied to a particular campaign. 5. Approximately 930 million dollars. 6. The Federal Election Campaign Act is a piece….

Civil Liberties the Bill of Rights Was

Civil Liberties The Bill of Rights was added to the U.S. Constitution in 1791. These are the first 10 amendments of the constitution, and were specifically created to facilitate the civil liberties of those who are lawfully included in the United States of America. In some ways, the Bill of Rights descends from the Magna Carta (Author 73), as the latter document preceded the former and was also created to ensure the civil liberties of individuals. Therefore, the origins of the Bill of Rights are intrinsically linked to the notion of not letting the government impose on the rights of individuals within the country. Originally, the Bill of Rights functioned as protection for civilians. Although time and different amendments and various court rulings have helped to mutate the meaning and (perhaps) even the efficacy of the Bill of Rights, its origins were to guarantee civil liberties to U.S. Citizens --….

YOU HAVE THIS INFORMATION, I DO NOT

Civil Liberties in General Has Increased During

civil liberties in general has increased during the last years in the UK and the U.S. IN particular, in concerns related to matters of National Security, the UK as well as the rest of the democratic world will have to place a heavy load on this chapter. The extradition of terror suspects to other countries where there are verifiable guarantees that they will not be tortured. Ever since democratic governments have been under the suspicion of having used ill-treatments in their offensive against terrorism it has become the duty of every self-respecting party or political coalition to have a chapter dedicated to it in its government program. The Coalition's programme for government specifically states that We will seek to extend these guarantees to more countries. In their efforts to guard National Security, democracies are striving to steer free of becoming terror generators themselves. A third party involved and often….

"Human Rights and Criminal Prosecutions: General Principles." CPS.gov.UK Available at:  http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/h_to_k/human_rights_and_criminal_prosecutions_general_principles/#content  Retrieved: May 11th, 2015

"National Security." Available at: http://cameronsdashboard.co.uk/national-security / retrieved: May 12th, 2015

Human Rights Watch.(2002) "United States: Reports of Torture of Al-Qaeda Suspects." Available at:  http://www.hrw.org/news/2002/12/26/united-states-reports-torture-al-qaeda-suspects  Retrieved: May 11th, 205

American Civil Liberties Union

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) The civil liberties that majority of Americans enjoy today were fought for through tough conditions and in several occasions people got detained and even killed defending the basic civil rights that need to be availed to each American on equal basis. The early 1920 saw the increase in the civil rights movements that wanted the democratic space within the country expanded and guaranteed more than it was at that moment in time. ACLU was founded in 1920 with the headquarters in New York though there are affiliate offices across several other states in the U.S. (American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, 2014). ACLU is regarded as the nation's guardian of liberty with the mission to work on a daily basis within the communities, the courts as well as the legislatures to ensure that the individual rights of each American, as provided for in the constitution and the….

American Civil Liberties Union, (2014). About the ACLU.  https://www.aclu.org/about-aclu-0 

American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, (2014). About the ACLU of Indiana.  http://www.aclu-in.org/images/About/2014-7-10_About_the_ACLU_of_Indiana.pdf 

ACLU, (2014). War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing. New York: ACLU Foundation.

One of the fundamental issues taking place in the United States in the present day encompasses the aspect of civil liberties and civil rights for all individuals and groups. A particular aspect in consideration is the lack of fairness and equity for black people in the United States. In the contemporary, there continues to be heated debate and arguments made regarding how the African-American group of people are being treated in the nation. In particular, the issue in this regard encompasses the recent verdict made by a jury ruling that Jeronimo Yanez, a police officer in Minnesota was not guilty for shooting and killing Philando Catile. Imperatively, castile was killed by the police officer during a routine traffic stop while with his girlfriend and child (Miller, 2017). Observed Political Event The observed political event is a political rally and speech made by Valerie, Philando Castile's mother subsequent to the verdict made. Valerie….

Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

Civil rights can be delineated as the very basic and fundamental rights to be free from unequal treatment, on the basis of particular attributes that are considered important, for instance gender, race, and also disability. The Bill of Rights protects all citizens of the nation against the infringement of their rights and liberties by any entity and even the state, as it is assured in the Constitution. One of the key civil rights discussed and debated in the United States in the present day encompasses the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning community (LGBTQ) (Newton, 2014). Describe the observed political event in detail, including the environment and people involved The event I attended was a political protest that covered the annual gay rights march. In particular, the parade was in search of shedding some light on the gay rights. The individuals that participated in the parade included men,….

American Civil Liberties Union (Friend or Foe) America was founded on the astute principles of democracy and the potential benefits of freedom it derives. America, unlike many of its foreign counterparts has long recognized the benefits of individual rights, freedoms and privileges and has fought to the death to protect them. Currently, America aims to spread these principles of democracy around the globe in an effort to create a better quality of life for all mankind. Even with these lofty and ambitious goals, America, on occasion fails to uphold these principles within its own borders. Too often, America has overlooked the problems prevalent within its own country while criticizing other nations about their own circumstances. Many of these overlooked issues including slavery, discrimination, women's rights and others have left an unfavorable image in American history. In such instances, the American Civil Liberties Union has become the beacon of hope for the American….

1) " American Civil Liberties Union." Social Welfare History Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 June 2011. .

2) "ACLU History | American Civil Liberties Union." American Civil Liberties Union. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 June 2011. .

3) "ACLU: Accomplishments." Action Center | American Civil Liberties Union. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 June 2011. .

4) "American Civil Liberties Union - New World Encyclopedia." Info:Main Page - New World Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 June 2011.

American Civil Liberties Union Is

(Chambers and Wedel, 2005, p. 65-67) the objectives of the CLU are then applied to specific issues, according to the perceived needs of the issue itself and what the historical best practices are for achieving successful change for any given issue. The application of objectives can be very broad to very specific based on historical best practices according to the CLU and other civil rights movements. If for instance a goal is to reduce the infringement of the constitutional rights of a single individual, who was transgressed against, the legal means might be used as a logical objective, while other goals, such as decreasing the utilization of the U.S. sponsorship of torture and/or rights infringement in the rest of the world, the call is to inform the public of the problem and then allow members and individuals in the organization to write congressmen and utilize the press to broaden….

ACLU: Death Penalty" (ND) Retrieved, June, 1, 2007 at  http://www.aclu.org/capital/general/index.html 

ACLU: Success Stories" (ND) Retrieved, June, 1, 2007 at http://action.aclu.org/site/PageServer?pagename=AP_success_feedback_main

Chambers, D.E. & Wedel, K.R. (2005) Social Policy and Social Programs: A Method for the Practical Public Policy Analyst, fourth Ed. New York: Allyn and Bacon.

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Research Proposal

Other than that, many dress codes cause too much restriction of freedoms and are more trouble than they are actually worth. There is no reason that a student…

The main advantage of the convention is that they provide an opportunity for candidates to define themselves in a positive way and for the party to heal itself…

Civil Liberties The Bill of Rights was added to the U.S. Constitution in 1791. These are the first 10 amendments of the constitution, and were specifically created to facilitate…

civil liberties in general has increased during the last years in the UK and the U.S. IN particular, in concerns related to matters of National Security, the UK…

Research Paper

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) The civil liberties that majority of Americans enjoy today were fought for through tough conditions and in several occasions people got detained and even killed…

Political Science / Politics

One of the fundamental issues taking place in the United States in the present day encompasses the aspect of civil liberties and civil rights for all individuals and groups.…

Civil rights can be delineated as the very basic and fundamental rights to be free from unequal treatment, on the basis of particular attributes that are considered important, for…

American Civil Liberties Union (Friend or Foe) America was founded on the astute principles of democracy and the potential benefits of freedom it derives. America, unlike many of its foreign counterparts…

(Chambers and Wedel, 2005, p. 65-67) the objectives of the CLU are then applied to specific issues, according to the perceived needs of the issue itself and what…

Freedom of Expression - ACLU Position Paper

Freedom of speech, of the press, of association, of assembly and petition — this set of guarantees, protected by the First Amendment, comprises what we refer to as freedom of expression. The Supreme Court has written that this freedom is “the matrix, the indispensable condition of nearly every other form of freedom.” Without it, other fundamental rights, like the right to vote, would wither and die.

But in spite of its “preferred position” in our constitutional hierarchy, the nation’s commitment to freedom of expression has been tested over and over again. Especially during times of national stress, like war abroad or social upheaval at home, people exercising their First Amendment rights have been censored, fined, even jailed. Those with unpopular political ideas have always borne the brunt of government repression. It was during WWI — hardly ancient history — that a person could be jailed just for giving out anti-war leaflets. Out of those early cases, modern First Amendment law evolved. Many struggles and many cases later, ours is the most speech-protective country in the world.

The path to freedom was long and arduous. It took nearly 200 years to establish firm constitutional limits on the government’s power to punish “seditious” and “subversive” speech. Many people suffered along the way, such as labor leader Eugene V. Debs, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison under the Espionage Act just for telling a rally of peaceful workers to realize they were “fit for something better than slavery and cannon fodder.” Or Sidney Street, jailed in 1969 for burning an American flag on a Harlem street corner to protest the shooting of civil rights figure James Meredith. (see box)

THE FIRST AMENDMENT IGNORED

Early Americans enjoyed great freedom compared to citizens of other nations. Nevertheless, once in power, even the Constitution’s framers were guilty of overstepping the First Amendment they had so recently adopted. In 1798, during the French-Indian War, Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Act, which made it a crime for anyone to publish “any false, scandalous and malicious writing” against the government. It was used by the then-dominant Federalist Party to prosecute prominent Republican newspaper editors during the late 18th century.

Throughout the 19th century, sedition, criminal anarchy and criminal conspiracy laws were used to suppress the speech of abolitionists, religious minorities, suffragists, labor organizers, and pacifists. In Virginia prior to the Civil War, for example, anyone who “by speaking or writing maintains that owners have no right of property in slaves” was subject to a one-year prison sentence.

The early 20th century was not much better. In 1912, feminist Margaret Sanger was arrested for giving a lecture on birth control. Trade union meetings were banned and courts routinely granted injunctions prohibiting strikes and other labor protests. Violators were sentenced to prison. Peaceful protesters opposing U. S. entry into World War I were jailed for expressing their opinions. In the early 1920s, many states outlawed the display of red or black flags, symbols of communism and anarchism. In 1923, author Upton Sinclair was arrested for trying to read the text of the First Amendment at a union rally. Many people were arrested merely for membership in groups regarded as “radical” by the government. It was in response to the excesses of this period that the ACLU was founded in 1920.

Free speech rights still need constant, vigilant protection. New questions arise and old ones return. Should flag burning be a crime? What about government or private censorship of works of art that touch on sensitive issues like religion or sexuality? Should the Internet be subject to any form of government control? What about punishing college students who espouse racist or sexist opinions? In answering these questions, the history and the core values of the First Amendment should be our guide.

THE SUPREME COURT AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT

During our nation’s early era, the courts were almost universally hostile to political minorities’ First Amendment rights; free speech issues did not even reach the Supreme Court until 1919 when, in Schenck v. U.S., the Court unanimously upheld the conviction of a Socialist Party member for mailing anti-anti-war leaflets to draft-age men. A turning point occurred a few months later in Abrams v. U.S. Although the defendant’s conviction under the Espionage Act for distributing anti-war leaflets was upheld, two dissenting opinions formed the cornerstone of our modern First Amendment law. Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes and Louis D. Brandeis argued speech could only be punished if it presented “a clear and present danger” of imminent harm. Mere political advocacy, they said, was protected by the First Amendment. Eventually, these justices were able to convince a majority of the Court to adopt the “clear and present danger test.”

From then on, the right to freedom of expression grew more secure — until the 1950s and McCarthyism. The Supreme Court fell prey to the witchhunt mentality of that period, seriously weakening the “clear and present danger” test by holding that speakers could be punished if they advocated overthrowing the government — even if the danger of such an occurrence were both slight and remote. As a result, many political activists were prosecuted and jailed simply for advocating communist revolution. Loyalty oath requirements for government employees were upheld; thousands of Americans lost their jobs on the basis of flimsy evidence supplied by secret witnesses.

Finally, in 1969, in Brandenberg v. Ohio, the Supreme Court struck down the conviction of a Ku Klux Klan member, and established a new standard: Speech can be suppressed only if it is intended, and likely to produce, “imminent lawless action.” Otherwise, even speech that advocates violence is protected. The Brandenberg standard prevails today.

WHAT DOES “PROTECTED SPEECH” INCLUDE?

First Amendment protection is not limited to “pure speech” — books, newspapers, leaflets, and rallies. It also protects “symbolic speech” — nonverbal expression whose purpose is to communicate ideas. In its 1969 decision in Tinker v. Des Moines, the Court recognized the right of public school students to wear black armbands in protest of the Vietnam War. In 1989 ( Texas v. Johnson) and again in 1990 ( U.S. v. Eichman), the Court struck down government bans on “flag desecration.” Other examples of protected symbolic speech include works of art, T-shirt slogans, political buttons, music lyrics and theatrical performances.

Government can limit some protected speech by imposing “time, place and manner” restrictions. This is most commonly done by requiring permits for meetings, rallies and demonstrations. But a permit cannot be unreasonably withheld, nor can it be denied based on content of the speech. That would be what is called viewpoint discrimination — and that is unconstitutional.

When a protest crosses the line from speech to action, the government can intervene more aggressively. Political protesters have the right to picket, to distribute literature, to chant and to engage passersby in debate. But they do not have the right to block building entrances or to physically harass people.

FREE SPEECH FOR HATEMONGERS?

The ACLU has often been at the center of controversy for defending the free speech rights of groups that spew hate, such as the Ku Klux Klan and the Nazis. But if only popular ideas were protected, we wouldn’t need a First Amendment. History teaches that the first target of government repression is never the last. If we do not come to the defense of the free speech rights of the most unpopular among us, even if their views are antithetical to the very freedom the First Amendment stands for, then no one’s liberty will be secure. In that sense, all First Amendment rights are “indivisible.”

Censoring so-called hate speech also runs counter to the long-term interests of the most frequent victims of hate: racial, ethnic, religious and sexual minorities. We should not give the government the power to decide which opinions are hateful, for history has taught us that government is more apt to use this power to prosecute minorities than to protect them. As one federal judge has put it, tolerating hateful speech is “the best protection we have against any Nazi-type regime in this country.”

At the same time, freedom of speech does not prevent punishing conduct that intimidates, harasses, or threatens another person, even if words are used. Threatening phone calls, for example, are not constitutionally protected.

SPEECH & NATIONAL SECURITY

The Supreme Court has recognized the government’s interest in keeping some information secret, such as wartime troop deployments. But the Court has never actually upheld an injunction against speech on national security grounds. Two lessons can be learned from this historical fact. First, the amount of speech that can be curtailed in the interest of national security is very limited. And second, the government has historically overused the concept of “national security” to shield itself from criticism, and to discourage public discussion of controversial policies or decisions.

In 1971, the publication of the “Pentagon Papers” by the New York Times brought the conflicting claims of free speech and national security to a head. The Pentagon Papers, a voluminous secret history and analysis of the country’s involvement in Vietnam, was leaked to the press. When the Times ignored the government’s demand that it cease publication, the stage was set for a Supreme Court decision. In the landmark U.S. v. New York Times case, the Court ruled that the government could not, through “prior restraint,” block publication of any material unless it could prove that it would “surely” result in “direct, immediate, and irreparable” harm to the nation. This the government failed to prove, and the public was given access to vital information about an issue of enormous importance.

The public’s First Amendment “right to know” is essential to its ability to fully participate in democratic decision-making. As the Pentagon Papers case demonstrates, the government’s claims of “national security” must always be closely scrutinized to make sure they are valid.

UNPROTECTED EXPRESSION

The Supreme Court has recognized several limited exceptions to First Amendment protection.

  • In Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (1942), the Court held that so-called “fighting words … which by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace,” are not protected. This decision was based on the fact that fighting words are of “slight social value as a step to truth.”
  • In New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964), the Court held that defamatory falsehoods about public officials can be punished — only if the offended official can prove the falsehoods were published with “actual malice,” i.e.: “knowledge that the statement was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.” Other kinds of “libelous statements” are also punishable.
  • Legally “obscene” material has historically been excluded from First Amendment protection. Unfortunately, the relatively narrow obscenity exception, described below, has been abused by government authorities and private pressure groups. Sexual expression in art and entertainment is, and has historically been, the most frequent target of censorship crusades, from James Joyce’s classic Ulysses to the photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe.

In the 1973 Miller v. California decision, the Court established three conditions that must be present if a work is to be deemed “legally obscene.” It must 1) appeal to the average person’s prurient (shameful, morbid) interest in sex; 2) depict sexual conduct in a “patently offensive way” as defined by community standards; and 3) taken as a whole, lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. Attempts to apply the “Miller test” have demonstrated the impossibility of formulating a precise definition of obscenity. Justice Potter Stewart once delivered a famous one-liner on the subject: “I know it when I see it.” But the fact is, the obscenity exception to the First Amendment is highly subjective and practically invites government abuse.

THREE REASONS WHY FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IS ESSENTIAL TO A FREE SOCIETY

It’s the foundation of self-fulfillment. The right to express one’s thoughts and to communicate freely with others affirms the dignity and worth of each and every member of society, and allows each individual to realize his or her full human potential. Thus, freedom of expression is an end in itself — and as such, deserves society’s greatest protection.

It’s vital to the attainment and advancement of knowledge, and the search for the truth. The eminent 19th-century writer and civil libertarian, John Stuart Mill, contended that enlightened judgment is possible only if one considers all facts and ideas, from whatever source, and tests one’s own conclusions against opposing views. Therefore, all points of view — even those that are “bad” or socially harmful — should be represented in society’s “marketplace of ideas.”

It’s necessary to our system of self-government and gives the American people a “checking function” against government excess and corruption. If the American people are to be the masters of their fate and of their elected government, they must be well-informed and have access to all information, ideas and points of view. Mass ignorance is a breeding ground for oppression and tyranny.

THE ACLU: ONGOING CHAMPION OF FREE EXPRESSION

The American Civil Liberties Union has been involved in virtually all of the landmark First Amendment cases to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, and remains absolutely committed to the preservation of each and every individual’s freedom of expression. During the 1980s, we defended the right of artists and entertainers to perform and produce works of art free of government and private censorship. During the 1990s, the organization fought to protect free speech in cyberspace when state and federal government attempted to impose content-based regulations on the Internet. In addition, the ACLU offers several books on the subject of freedom of expression:

RESOURCES: Ira Glasser, Visions of Liberty, Arcade, 1991. J. Gora, D. Goldberger, G. Stern, M. Halperin, The Right to Protest: The Basic ACLU Guide to Free Expression, SIU Press, 1991. Franklin Haiman, “Speech Acts” and the First Amendment 1993, SIU Press, 1993. Nadine Strossen, Defending Pornography: Free Speech, Sex and the Fight for Women’s Rights, Anchor Press, 1995.

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4.1 What Are Civil Liberties?

Learning objectives.

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Define civil liberties and civil rights
  • Describe the origin of civil liberties in the U.S. context
  • Identify the key positions on civil liberties taken at the Constitutional Convention
  • Explain the Civil War origin of concern that the states should respect civil liberties

The U.S. Constitution —in particular, the first ten amendments that form the Bill of Rights—protects the freedoms and rights of individuals. It does not limit this protection just to citizens or adults; instead, in most cases, the Constitution simply refers to “persons,” which over time has grown to mean that even children, visitors from other countries, and immigrants—permanent or temporary, legal or undocumented—enjoy the same freedoms when they are in the United States or its territories as adult citizens do. So, whether you are a Japanese tourist visiting Disney World or someone who has stayed beyond the limit of days allowed on your visa, you do not sacrifice your liberties. In everyday conversation, we tend to treat freedoms, liberties, and rights as interchangeable—similar to how separation of powers and checks and balances are often used synonymously, when, in fact, these are distinct concepts.

DEFINING CIVIL LIBERTIES

To be more precise in their language, political scientists and legal experts make a distinction between civil liberties and civil rights, even though the Constitution has been interpreted to protect both. We typically envision civil liberties as limitations on government power, intended to protect freedoms upon which governments may not legally intrude. For example, the First Amendment denies the government the power to prohibit “the free exercise” of religion. This means that neither states nor the national government can forbid people to follow a religion of their choice, even if politicians and judges think the religion is misguided, blasphemous, or otherwise inappropriate. Unlike most of the rest of world at the time, U.S. citizens could even create their own faiths recruit followers to it (subject to the U.S. Supreme Court deeming it a religion), even if both society and government disapprove of its tenets. That said, the way you practice your religion, like any other practice, may be regulated if it impinges on the rights of others. To return to the previous example, religious communities may believe their faith will protect them and loved ones from disease, but they may not have the right to both not vaccinate their children and have those children publicly educated, where they would pose a risk to others. The Eighth Amendment says the government cannot impose “cruel and unusual punishments” on individuals for their criminal acts. Although the definitions of cruel and unusual have expanded over the years, the courts have generally and consistently interpreted this provision as making it unconstitutional for government officials to torture suspects. As we will see later in this chapter, courts are currently debating the degree to which extended solitary confinement and certain forms of capital punishment might count as cruel and unusual.

Civil rights , on the other hand, are guarantees that government officials will treat people equally and that decisions will be made on the basis of merit rather than race, gender, or other personal characteristics. Because of the Constitution’s civil rights guarantee, it is unlawful for any publicly-funded entity, such as a school or state university, or even a landlord or potential landlord to treat people differently based on their race, ethnicity, age, sex, or national origin. In the 1960s and 1970s, many states had separate schools where only students of a certain race or gender were able to study. However, the courts decided that these policies violated the civil rights of students who could not be admitted because of those rules. 2 In 2017, the Trump administration began enacting a policy at border entries in El Paso that entailed separating undocumented parents and children as they entered the United States. They expanded that policy in 2018. Today, the government continues to try to reunite families who were separated during that time. 3

The idea that Americans—indeed, people in general—have fundamental rights and liberties was at the core of the arguments in favor of their independence. In writing the Declaration of Independence in 1776, Thomas Jefferson drew on the ideas of English philosopher John Locke to express the colonists’ belief that they had certain inalienable or natural rights that no ruler had the power or authority to deny to their subjects. It was a scathing legal indictment of King George III for violating the colonists’ liberties. Although the Declaration of Independence does not guarantee specific freedoms, its language was instrumental in inspiring many of the states to adopt protections for civil liberties and rights in their own constitutions, and in expressing principles of the founding era that have resonated in the United States since its independence. In particular, Jefferson’s words “all men are created equal” became the centerpiece of struggles for the rights of women and minorities ( Figure 4.2 ).

Link to Learning

Founded in 1920, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is one of the oldest interest groups in the United States. The mission of this non-partisan, not-for-profit organization is “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.” Many of the Supreme Court cases in this chapter were litigated by, or with the support of, the ACLU. The ACLU offers a listing of state and local chapters on their website.

CIVIL LIBERTIES AND THE CONSTITUTION

The Constitution as drafted in 1787 did not include a Bill of Rights , although the idea of including one was proposed and, after brief discussion, dismissed in the final week of the Constitutional Convention. The framers of the Constitution believed they faced much more pressing concerns than the protection of civil rights and liberties—most notably keeping the fragile union together in the light of internal unrest and external threats.

Moreover, the framers thought that they had adequately covered rights issues in the main body of the document. Indeed, the Federalists did include in the Constitution some protections against legislative acts that might restrict the liberties of citizens, based on the history of real and perceived abuses by both British kings and parliaments as well as royal governors. In Article I , Section 9, the Constitution limits the power of Congress in three ways: prohibiting the passage of bills of attainder, prohibiting ex post facto laws, and limiting the ability of Congress to suspend the writ of habeas corpus.

A bill of attainder is a law that convicts or punishes someone for a crime without a trial, a tactic used fairly frequently in England against the king’s enemies. Prohibition of such laws means that the U.S. Congress cannot simply punish people who are unpopular or who seem to be guilty of crimes. An ex post facto law has a retroactive effect: it can be used to punish crimes that were not crimes at the time they were committed, or it can be used to increase the severity of punishment after the fact.

Finally, the writ of habeas corpus is used in our common-law legal system to demand that a neutral judge decide whether someone has been lawfully detained. Particularly in times of war, or even in response to threats against national security, the government has held suspected enemy agents without access to civilian courts, often without access to lawyers or a defense, seeking instead to try them before military tribunals or detain them indefinitely without trial. For example, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln detained suspected Confederate saboteurs and sympathizers in Union-controlled states and attempted to have them tried in military court s, leading the Supreme Court to rule in Ex parte Milligan that the government could not bypass the civilian court system in states where it was operating. 4 In 1919, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes was the lone dissenter in the Abrams v. United States decision that convicted four, young, antiwar activists for pamphleteering against U.S. involvement in the Russian Civil War, which now would be exercised as a clear case of freedom of speech.

During World War II, the Roosevelt administration interned Japanese Americans and had other suspected enemy agents—including U.S. citizens—tried by military courts rather than by the civilian justice system, a choice the Supreme Court upheld in Ex parte Quirin ( Figure 4.3 ). 5 More recently, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Bush and Obama administrations detained suspected terrorists captured both within and outside the United States and sought to avoid trials in civilian courts, and surveilled U.S. citizens to detect threats. Hence, there have been times in our history when national security issues trumped individual liberties.

Debate has always swirled over these issues. The Federalists reasoned that the limited set of named or enumerated powers of Congress, along with the limitations on those powers in Article I , Section 9 of the Constitution, would suffice, and that no separate bill of rights was needed. Writing as Publius in Federalist No. 84, Alexander Hamilton argued that the Constitution was “merely intended to regulate the general political interests of the nation” rather than contend with “the regulation of every species of personal and private concerns.” Hamilton went on to argue that listing some rights might actually be dangerous, because it would provide a pretext for people to claim that rights not included in such a list were not protected. Later, James Madison , in his speech introducing the proposed amendments that would become the Bill of Rights, acknowledged another Federalist argument: “It has been said, that a bill of rights is not necessary, because the establishment of this government has not repealed those declarations of rights which are added to the several state constitutions.” 6 Neither had the Articles of Confederation included a specific listing of rights, even if it was predictable that state governments would differ in what they would tolerate, grant, and prohibit among their citizens.

Anti-Federalists argued that the Federalists’ position was incorrect and perhaps even insincere. The Anti-Federalists believed provisions such as the so-called elastic clause in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution would allow Congress to legislate on matters well beyond those foreseen by the Constitution’s authors. Thus, they held that a bill of rights was necessary. One of the Anti-Federalists, Brutus , whom most scholars believe to be Robert Yates , wrote: “The powers, rights, and authority, granted to the general government by this Constitution, are as complete, with respect to every object to which they extend, as that of any state government—It reaches to every thing which concerns human happiness—Life, liberty, and property, are under its controul [sic]. There is the same reason, therefore, that the exercise of power, in this case, should be restrained within proper limits, as in that of the state governments.” 7 The experience of the past two centuries has suggested that the Anti-Federalists may have been correct in this regard. While the states retain a great deal of importance, the scope and powers of the national government are much broader today than in 1787—likely beyond even the imaginings of the Federalists themselves.

The struggle to have rights clearly delineated and the decision of the framers to omit a bill of rights from the Constitution nearly derailed the ratification process. While some of the states were willing to ratify without any further guarantees, in some of the larger states—New York and Virginia in particular—the Constitution’s lack of specified rights became a serious point of contention. The Constitution could go into effect with the support of only nine states, but the Federalists knew it could not be effective without the participation of the largest states. To secure majorities in favor of ratification in New York and Virginia, as well as Massachusetts, they agreed to consider incorporating provisions suggested by the ratifying states as amendments to the Constitution.

Ultimately, James Madison delivered on this promise by proposing a package of amendments in the First Congress, drawing from the Declaration of Rights in the Virginia state constitution, suggestions from the ratification conventions, and other sources. Each of these were extensively debated in both houses of Congress and, ultimately, proposed as twelve separate amendments for ratification by the states. Ten of the amendments were successfully ratified by the requisite 75 percent of the states and became known as the Bill of Rights ( Table 4.1 ).

Finding a Middle Ground

Debating the need for a bill of rights.

One of the most serious debates between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists was over the necessity of limiting the power of the new federal government with a Bill of Rights. As we saw in this section, the Federalists believed a Bill of Rights was unnecessary—and perhaps even dangerous to liberty, because it might invite violations of rights that weren’t included in it—while the Anti-Federalists thought the national government would prove adept at expanding its powers and influence and that citizens couldn’t depend on the good judgment of Congress alone to protect their rights.

As George Washington’s call for a bill of rights in his first inaugural address suggested, while the Federalists ultimately had to add the Bill of Rights to the Constitution in order to win ratification, the Anti-Federalists' fear that the national government might intrude on civil liberties proved to be prescient. In 1798, at the behest of President John Adams during the Quasi-War with France, Congress passed a series of four laws collectively known as the Alien and Sedition Acts. These laws were drafted to allow the president to imprison or deport foreign citizens that he believed were “dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States” and to restrict speech and newspaper articles critical of the federal government or its officials. The laws were primarily used against members and supporters of the opposition, the Democratic-Republican Party.

State laws and constitutions protecting free speech and freedom of the press proved ineffective in limiting this new federal power. Although the courts did not decide on the constitutionality of these laws at the time, most scholars believe the Sedition Act, in particular, would be ruled unconstitutional if it had remained in effect. Three of the four laws were repealed in the Jefferson administration, but one—the Alien Enemies Act—remains on the books today. Two centuries later, the issue of free speech and freedom of the press during times of international conflict remains a subject of intense public debate.

Should the government be able to restrict or censor unpatriotic, disloyal, or critical speech in times of international conflict? What about from government whistle-blowers or employees who leak sensitive information? How much freedom should journalists have to report on stories from the perspective of enemies or to repeat propaganda from opposing forces?

EXTENDING THE BILL OF RIGHTS TO THE STATES

In the decades following the Constitution’s ratification, the Supreme Court declined to expand the Bill of Rights to curb the power of the states, most notably in the 1833 case of Barron v. Baltimore . 8 In this case, which dealt with property rights under the Fifth Amendment , the Supreme Court unanimously decided that the Bill of Rights applied only to actions by the federal government, not state or local governments. Explaining the court’s ruling, Chief Justice John Marshall wrote that it was incorrect to argue that “the Constitution was intended to secure the people of the several states against the undue exercise of power by their respective state governments; as well as against that which might be attempted by their [Federal] government.”

The festering issue of the rights of enslaved persons and the convulsions of the Civil War and its aftermath forced a reexamination of the prevailing thinking about the application of the Bill of Rights to the states. Soon after slavery was abolished by the Thirteenth Amendment , state governments—particularly those in the former Confederacy—began to pass “Black codes” that restricted the rights of formerly enslaved people, including the right to hold office, own land, or vote, relegating them to second-class citizenship. Angered by these actions, members of the Radical Republican faction in Congress demanded that the Black codes be overturned. In the short term, they advocated suspending civilian government in most of the southern states and replacing politicians who had enacted these discriminatory laws. Their long-term solution was to propose and enforce two amendments to the Constitution to guarantee the rights of freed men and women. These became the Fourteenth Amendment , which dealt with civil liberties and rights in general, and the Fifteenth Amendment , which protected the right to vote in particular ( Figure 4.4 ). though still not for women or Native Americans.

With the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, the scope and limits of civil liberties became clearer. First, the amendment says, “no State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States,” which is a provision that echoes the privileges and immunities clause in Article IV , Section 2 of the original Constitution ensuring that states treat citizens of other states the same as their own citizens. (To use an example from today, the punishment for speeding by an out-of-state driver cannot be more severe than the punishment for an in-state driver). Legal scholars and the courts have extensively debated the meaning of this privileges or immunities clause over the years, with some arguing that it was supposed to extend the entire Bill of Rights (or at least the first eight amendments) to the states, and others arguing that only some rights are extended. In 1999, Justice John Paul Stevens , writing for a majority of the Supreme Court, argued in Saenz v. Roe that the clause protects the right to travel from one state to another. 9 More recently, Justice Clarence Thomas argued in the 2010 McDonald v. Chicago ruling that the individual right to bear arms applied to the states because of this clause. 10

The second provision of the Fourteenth Amendment pertaining to the application of the Bill of Rights to the states is the due process clause , which famously reads, “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Like the Fifth Amendment, this clause refers to “due process,” a term that is interpreted to require both access to procedural justice (such as the right to a trial) as well as the more substantive implication that people be treated fairly and impartially by government officials. Although the text of the provision does not mention rights specifically, the courts have held in a series of cases that due process also implies that there are certain fundamental liberties that cannot be denied by the states. For example, in Sherbert v. Verner (1963), the Supreme Court ruled that states could not deny unemployment benefits to an individual who turned down a job because it required working on the Sabbath. 11

Beginning in 1897, the Supreme Court has found that various provisions of the Bill of Rights protecting these fundamental liberties must be upheld by the states, even if their state constitutions and laws (and the Tenth Amendment itself) do not protect them as fully as the Bill of Rights does—or at all. This means there has been a process of selective incorporation of the Bill of Rights into the practices of the states: the Constitution effectively inserts parts of the Bill of Rights into state laws and constitutions, even though it doesn’t do so explicitly. When cases arise to clarify particular issues and procedures, the Supreme Court decides whether state laws violate the Bill of Rights and are therefore unconstitutional.

For example, under the Fifth Amendment , a person can be tried in federal court for a felony—a serious crime—only after a grand jury issues an indictment indicating that it is reasonable to try them. (A grand jury is a group of citizens charged with deciding whether there is enough evidence of a crime to prosecute someone.) The Supreme Court has ruled that states don’t have to use grand juries as long as they ensure people accused of crimes are indicted using an equally fair process.

Selective incorporation is an ongoing process. When the Supreme Court initially decided in 2008 that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms, it did not decide then that it was a fundamental liberty the states must uphold as well. It was only in the McDonald v. Chicago case two years later that the Supreme Court incorporated the Second Amendment into state law. Another area in which the Supreme Court gradually moved to incorporate the Bill of Rights regards censorship and the Fourteenth Amendment. In Near v. Minnesota (1931), the Court disagreed with state courts regarding censorship and ruled it unconstitutional except in rare cases. 12

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  • Authors: Glen Krutz, Sylvie Waskiewicz, PhD
  • Publisher/website: OpenStax
  • Book title: American Government 3e
  • Publication date: Jul 28, 2021
  • Location: Houston, Texas
  • Book URL: https://openstax.org/books/american-government-3e/pages/1-introduction
  • Section URL: https://openstax.org/books/american-government-3e/pages/4-1-what-are-civil-liberties

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Home / Essay Samples / Law / American Constitution / Civil Liberties

Civil Liberties Essay Examples

Comparison between canada’s and mexico’s political system, civil liberties, policy and governance.

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